Epidural<br />Gone are the days when women had no choice but to endure labor and delivery without medication to ease the pain. Now, techniques like epidurals can make an otherwise painful experience more calm, controlled, and even comfortable. Of course, many women hope to get through childbirth without having to ask for medications. But once labor starts, it’s common and completely understandable for a woman to change her mind and request some sort of relief to make things easier or, at least, more bearable. No matter how prepared you are, physically and mentally, giving birth is hard. Whether you’ve known from day one that you’d be asking for an epidural or have your heart set on a medicine-free birth, here’s the lowdown on epidurals and how they can take some of the pain out of labor and delivery.<br />
What's an epidural?<br />An epidural (sometimes called an epidural block) is what most women think of when they consider pain medication during labor. Epidurals are a form of regional anaesthesia that provide continuous pain relief to the entire body below the belly button (including the vaginal walls) throughout labor and delivery. With an epidural, a woman is comfortable and still fully awake.<br />
How is it done?<br />An epidural involves medication given by an anaesthesiologist through a thin, tube-like catheter that’s inserted in the woman’s lower back and then into the area just outside the membrane covering the spinal cord (called the epidural space). You’ll need to sit or lie on your side with your back arched while the doctor inserts the epidural. The amount of medication can be regulated according to your needs. As your labor progresses and you start to deliver, the anaesthesiologist can administer medication as needed through the catheter in your back without having to inject you again.<br />
What will it feel like?<br />The thought of a big needle going into your back can be downright unnerving. But contrary to what many women may think, getting an epidural doesn’t hurt that much at all. The skin is numbed first, so you’ll probably feel just a stick or pinch and some pressure. Of course, you may be aware of the catheter in your back, which can be annoying for some women, but it isn’t painful or uncomfortable. Once the epidural is in place, you may still feel the pressure of contractions, although you shouldn’t feel the pain. Actually, being aware of your contractions, if even a little, helps once you start to push.<br />
What will it feel like?<br />As the doctor adjusts the dosage, your legs may feel a little weak, warm, tingly, numb, or heavy. Unlike some other labor and delivery medications, epidurals don’t affect your mind. You’ll still feel alert and aware of what’s going on.<br />
How long will it take?<br />It only takes a couple of minutes to insert an epidural. You should start to feel the effects in about 10 to 20 minutes. The epidural catheter will stay in place throughout your labor and delivery.<br />
What are the risks?<br />Epidurals do have some drawbacks. They may:<br /><ul><li>Make it harder for a woman to push the baby out (although the anaesthesiologist can adjust the amount of medication being given if this happens)
Cause temporary difficulty with urination, requiring a urinary catheter very rarely cause bleeding</li></li></ul><li>What are the risks?<br />Although some studies suggest that epidurals may increase the chances of caesarean deliveries (C-sections) or vaginal deliveries that require forceps or vacuum extractions, others show no correlation. It’s not clear if the surgery or assisted delivery were needed because of the epidural or if the epidural and the surgery or assisted delivery were both needed because of some underlying problem.<br />
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.